What Would Martin Lewis Do?

9 11 2009

I’ve been a big fan of Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert for quite some time. If you don’t already receive his weekly email, I strongly recommend it. Sign up here. He’s made it easy for the general public to understand finance – something that many people are in the dark about – and is educating us in the ways of consumer activism. Retailers don’t always play fair, and consumers don’t always know their rights. With this in mind, I did a little bit of complaining today, for the good of the people.

Whilst checking my personal emails at lunchtime today, I came across a marketing email from a Volkwagen dealership, asking me to test drive a new VW Polo. There’s nothing unusual about that. I get quite a lot of these emails since I had a spate of “comping” a while back so my email address is no doubt on quite a few mailing lists. What was intriguing about this email was that, for such a large corporation as Wolkswagen, the email was incredibly poor and broke several fundamental rules of e-marketing. The sender had not included an “unsubscribe” option and worse, the recipients of the email had not been blind-copied, meaning that everyone who received the email could see the email address of everyone else it was sent to. Finally, and in my humble opinion, the worst thing of all, was that the spelling was atrocious.

So, I did what Martin Lewis would do and complained, not only to Volkswagen directly, but also to the sender – and copied in everyone else on the list. Here’s the letter.

“Dear Mr Uxxxxx,

Firstly, please be advised that I have written to your office to raise a formal complaint about the email, below, which I received from you today. There is strict legislation regarding what can and can’t be done in mass mailing of this type and it seems that you are entirely unaware of these rules. I appreciate that there are certain companies that sell people’s contact information for marketing purposes, and I realise that at some point in the past I may have left myself open to being included on one of these lists by erroneously not ticking the “Please do not contact me” box when filling in an online form, etc. That said, I have no idea who you are, have no interest in Alan Day VW and did not ask to be kept informed of your news. This email is completely unsolicited, and further breaks the law by not having an “unsubscribe” option.

Secondly, your mail contained attachments. While these may well have been harmless pictures of Volkswagen cars, forgive me for exercising caution in opening these attachments – owing to the nature of the spam you have sent me. If this was indeed a virus, you could have just infected the entire network of some 500 or more machines at my workplace seeing as I used a company computer to read the mail.

Finally, and in my eyes the most importantly, you have not blind copied the recipients of this email, i.e. the email addresses of every recipient are visible to every other recipient. Again, this breaks legislation. At the very least you have now opened us all up to even more unsolicited spam, as well as being in breach of the Data Protection Act and putting our online security at risk. You will notice that I have “replied to all” so that the other people who received your mail might also take action. (To those people, please ignore/delete as you see fit – I won’t be spamming you or using your email addresses again, but this is something that I feel very strongly about and I hope you will also report this matter!)

I look forward to an explanation and apology (you may just reply to me this time instead of bothering everyone else again!)

Regards, although not kind ones,

Lisa Martin”

I regret slightly the “unkind regards”, but hey I was in the flow.

Over the course of the day, I received several emails from people on the mailing list congratulating me on my efforts, which was nice. Later in the day I received a telephone call from Mr. U who personally apologised (I think he must have got into a lot of trouble!). Later still, I received an email from the managing director of the dealership, and this is what he said.

“Dear Customer,

I am writing to sincerely apologise for the unapproved actions of one of my Sales Executives earlier today which may have offended you or caused you to call into question the very strict Data Protection policies that the AXXX DXX VW Group has in place.

I would like to confirm and reassure you that this incident was isolated and the Sales Executive concerned will be dealt with internally upon the results of a full investigation due to be held this week. I would also like to assure you that all data held by the AXXX DXX Group is dealt with in the strictest of confidence and that new measures have been put in place today to prevent any such incident occurring in the future.

As a gesture of goodwill and by way of apology for any distress or inconvenience caused, I would like to offer you two complimentary cinema tickets for a film of your choice. If you would like to accept this offer, I would be grateful if you could email or telephone my PA, DXXXX HXXXXXXXX.

[Telephone no. and email supplied]

I would like to thank you on behalf of myself and my team for the interest that you have shown in the new VW Polo and sincerely hope that this incident will not prevent you from considering this excellent vehicle as your first choice in the future.

Apologies once again,

Yours faithfully

PXXX TXXXXX
Managing Director, AXXX DXX VW Group”

Well! Free cinema vouchers just for a little complaint letter! Yeah!

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